Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports by Edward Brooke-Hitching

Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports by Edward Brooke-Hitching

foxtossingThe moral of today’s story is that people used to do terrible things to animals in the name of “sport.” Interspersed with fascinating tidbits about dueling with rubber bullets and auto polo, Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports documents the nauseating practices of bear, dog and monkey baiting and more- so much more.

It describes mass hunts conducted in arenas by royalty and nobles were hundreds, if not thousands, of animals were slaughtered as entertainment. From shooting arrows at roosters to breaking apart a barrel with a cat inside, I could not believe the brutality.

If you can make it through the animal abuse sports, and I confess that I skimmed most of those, what’s left is amazing. “… from learning about how our ancestors entertained themselves we gain a unique insight into broader contemporary attitudes towards morality, humor, and the trials of daily existence.” pg 3. “The reasons why these forgotten sports fell out of favor are, of course, many and varied, but broadly speaking can be divided into three categories: cruelty, danger, and ridiculousness.” pg 5.

Ah, balloon jumping. This is a sport where a dude would attach a huge balloon to himself and leap across the landscape like a superhero. Why did we quit balloon jumping? “He did nearly clear the electrified cables, but unfortunately his feet became entangled, and when he tried to extract himself by grabbing one of the wires he was blown to the ground in a hail of sparks, dying instantly. Alas, balloon jumpers never quite managed to refine the sport to a level of safety below “frequently lethal”…” pg 24.

Then there was dwile flonking: “In mid-1960’s Norfolk, it became a favorite activity of locals to gather in a large group, dance to an accordion, and hit each other in the face with beer-soaked rags.” pg 87. What fun.

I would say that the practice of “flyting” is alive and well in some online forums: “Flytings were extemporary swearing matches that placed a value on the imagination and verbal dexterity of the participants, who would exchange insults with impressive wordplay in a sense similar to modern rap battles, but with an intensity of vitriol and florid vocabulary that is hard to fully comprehend by modern standards.” pg 101. But not on Goodreads, where civil discourse rules the day. 🙂

Recommended for trivia hounds and those interested in obscure history, Fox Tossing is full of hilarious and heart-breaking facts about some of mankind’s forgotten pastimes. Those who are triggered by animal cruelty would be best served by picking a different book.

Thanks for reading!

I Hope I Screw This Up: How Falling in Love with Your Fears Can Change the World by Kyle Cease

I Hope I Screw This Up: How Falling in Love with Your Fears Can Change the World by Kyle Cease

ihopeiI Hope I Screw This Up is a part-diary, part-spiritual evolution manual and 100 percent the Hippie Librarian’s type of read. Kyle Cease shares his thoughts and personal path towards becoming his best self. I didn’t find it to be as funny as promised in the blurb, but I do think it has worth as, “another finger pointing towards the moon,” as Eckhart Tolle would say.

The beginning of this book is hard to get through- for the writer and the reader. Kyle explores his fears and inability to get started. But, he slowly gets into his groove and, boy, does he begin flowing. Here’s the start of the turn-around: “You would have sensed my inauthenticity immediately if I was feeling fear in every ounce of my body and I just overlooked it in order to write the “right” thing. Instead, by baring my soul and telling you what I’m actually experiencing, I’m freeing myself from the pain I would otherwise be hiding and holding on to. Something I’ve learned is that sharing my deepest truth, no matter how scary it is in the moment, is freedom.” loc 48, ebook. And he’s off to the races.

“Just because I haven’t done this before doesn’t mean that I can’t access the ability to write the most amazing book that has ever been written. We all have the exact same level of ability to access the unlimited creativity available in every moment.” loc 158, ebook. I believe that too-
humanity’s ability to access unlimited creativity every moment. I suppose I believe that Kyle could write the most amazing book that has ever been written. Does he do it in this tome? I guess that depends upon how well you’re able to connect with what he’s done.

I enjoyed this discussion about the limitations of the mind: “Your mind is constantly putting you in survival mode all day so it can protect itself from what it thinks will be death, and unfortunately, your mind thinks almost everything is death.” loc 224, ebook. Isn’t that the truth.

And he touches on some of the problems with the New Age movement: “I know it sounds weird to say that sadness is actually a good thing, but the societal lie is that it’s better to be happy than to be sad. That’s just a belief that our mind created. … one of the strongest things you can do is to actually feel the emotions that you’re experiencing.” loc 510. Every emotion has a time and place. The insistence upon positivity at any cost, doesn’t work. Serenity now, insanity later… yes?

He also goes into the life-changing benefits of meditation, which I also agree with. By slowing down and taking the time to go within, your inner being speaks to you and gives you guidance: “Every single one of us has this calling within us, but most people are so locked into the habits and distractions they’ve created in their life that they can’t hear it. It doesn’t take anything special to discover what that calling is or what it wants you to do; all you have to do is turn down the volume of your distractions and listen.” loc 706. It may sound weird if you haven’t experienced it yet but it’s true.

For the most part, Kyle keeps his book in this dimension of reality and doesn’t dip into the far-out. But, there is a part where he briefly jokes about a picture of himself and how, at the universal energy level, we’re all the same. So, technically, you’re looking at a picture of yourself in the book that you wrote, even though it seems that you’re looking at a picture of him in a book that he wrote. That could be a bridge too far for some readers, but the Hippie Librarian took it all in stride.

Enthusiasts of Eckhart Tolle and Abraham Hicks will probably enjoy Kyle Cease. He’s authentic in the way that spiritual teachers are, understandable and amusing. He also makes a good case for falling in love with your fears. Now, the hard part, to practice it.

Thank you to Netgalley and North Star Way publishing for a free digital copy of this book. Reminder: the brief quotations that I pulled from the advance reader’s text may differ slightly in the final printed version.

Thanks for reading!

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2) by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2) by Rick Yancey

theinfiniteseaGritter and more disturbing than The 5th Wave, Cassie, Ben, Ringer, et al are still trying to survive the end of the world. The mystery of the aliens increases. The manner in which the war against humanity is waged sinks to new lows. Yancey takes the story on some unexpected turns and I liked them.

The pace of this story is relentless and the lines are blurred between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” It gives you a tension headache if you don’t take a break from it every couple of chapters. At least, it did for me. “Anyway, no debt is ever fully repaid, not really, not the ones that really matter. You saved me, he said, and back then I didn’t understand what I had saved him from. … Now I was thinking he didn’t mean I saved him from anything, but for something.” pg 128.

But for what! Yancey answers most of the questions he introduced the reader to in The 5th Wave. He also weaves in some complications. I won’t say anything about those… but they’re very serious and deadly. “No one can be trusted,” I said. “Not even a child.” The cold bored down to my bones and curled inside the marrow.” pg 148.

“I understand the game within the game now: There is nothing private, nothing sacred. There is no part of me hidden from him. My stomach churns with revulsion. He’s violated more than my memories. He’s molesting my soul.” pg 188. The aliens still seem to have the upper hand with the technology that can peer into people’s minds. With all of the creepy things in these books, that bit bothered me the most.

Will our intrepid teenage-survivalists solve the mystery of what the invaders want or what they are before everyone is dead? I don’t know… but I’m going to read the last book and find out. Recommended for young adults or the young-at-heart who enjoy dystopian/mystery thrill-rides.

Thanks for reading!

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1) by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1) by Rick Yancey

the5thwaveMajor spoilers ahead. Please do not read if you haven’t read this book.

The 5th Wave is about the end of the world and aliens, yes, but it also explores why life is worth living.

Cassie didn’t know how good she had it until the alien spaceship appeared in the sky and life was never the same. First, there was chaos, but now it is clear that the aliens want to exterminate everyone. And, if they just want the planet for themselves, why are they waging war in such a sadistic manner? It is a mystery and Cassie is going to figure it out.

I was really into the narrative when Rick Yancey chose to change characters and continue the story from a different point of view. I felt that it was unnecessary and broke the flow.

Also, and this is another pet peeve of mine, must every young adult dystopian contain romance as a major part of the plot? The Hunger Games, Divergent, I could go on… and this. You’d think the teens would be far too busy staying alive to fall in love, but that’s clearly not the case from the literature.

I really liked the manner in which Yancey introduces his aliens. First, you get to see their results on humanity. Then, he drops breadcrumbs about how they got here. It’s creepy. “There will be no awakening. The sleeping woman will feel nothing the next morning, only a vague sense of unease and the unshakable feeling that someone is watching her. … And what the shadow has come for- the baby within the sleeping woman- will feel nothing. The intrusion breaks no skin, violates not a single cell of her or the baby’s body.” pg 17, ebook. So scary.

I read a few reviews in which this book was accused of being a copycat of The Host and I feel that it deserves a comment. They are similar in that they both contain aliens, both are dystopians and both have the alien consciousness inside human consciousness. But, those are very broad strokes. The details of the books are different enough and I feel that Yancey has his own plans for his story.

In The Host, the aliens feel more misunderstood and benevolent than the scary creatures in The 5th Wave. This book has a lot more action, The Host is more nuanced. To be fair, superficially, they seem too similar for that to be a coincidence. But in reality, they are as different as Star Wars and Dune. Wait a minute, bad comparison? 🙂

Here’s one of my favorite passages: “Forget about flying saucers and little green men and giant mechanical spiders spitting out death rays. Forget about epic battles with tanks and fighter jets and the final victory of us scrappy, unbroken, intrepid humans over the bug-eyed swarm. That’s about as far from the truth as their dying planet was from our living one. The truth is, once they found us, we were toast.” pg 19, ebook.

Also this one, for obvious reasons: “.. I have a thing about books. So did my father. … While the rest of us scrounged for potable water and food and stocked up on the weaponry for the last stand we were sure was coming, Daddy was out with my little brother’s Radio Flyer carting home books.” pg 33, ebook. Seriously. If the apocalypse ever comes, I’m going to camp out in the library, Station Eleven style. Who’s with me?

Recommended for people who like dystopians and intense survival scenes and aren’t annoyed by angst-y teen romance. The 5th Wave is one scary alien story. They’re here and they’re out to get you and everyone you know! And, so far, they’re doing a VERY good job.

Thanks for reading!

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

cabin10A so-so mystery with an unreliable narrator that takes place, for the most part, on a boat. It was ok thriller, but I would never have read it without the encouragement of my book club.

In the desperate search for “the next Gone Girl“, The Woman in Cabin 10was put forward as an option. I think that’s unfair. The next Gone Girlor Hunger Games will be so clearly original and ground-breaking that it couldn’t be titled the next fill-in-the-blank.

And, with that sort of hype, it put an expectation on this story that it didn’t live up to. But, that’s not The Woman in Cabin 10‘s fault.

It was clear to me that Ruth Ware had experience as a journalist. Her character, Lo Blacklock, is completely believable in that regard. But, I found that I didn’t like her much. She puts too much pressure on herself to succeed.

“I had to get myself together before I left for this trip. It was an unmissable, unrepeatable opportunity to prove myself after ten years at the coalface of boring cut-and-paste journalism. This was my chance to show I could hack it…” pg 20.

But, if she had taken the time to stay home and recover from her PTSD, what sort of thriller would that be? So, off she goes, onto a billionaire’s exclusive boat.

“…it was pretty nice. I guess you had to get something for the eight grand or whatever it was they were charging for this place. The amount was slightly obscene, in comparison to my salary- or even Rowan’s salary.” pg 47.

Then, in classic thriller fashion, she hears a scream in the night, sees something that no one, even she, believes and is now stuck in an enclosed space with a potential killer.

Even with that set-up, I didn’t get into the story. Lo is overly-dramatic and doesn’t take the time to think things through. I found myself wishing that she would slow down and start keeping a complete written record rather than running from one disastrous encounter to the next.

“I lay there, cudgeling my battered brain to try to work it out, but the more I tried to ram the bits of information together, the more it felt like a jigsaw with too many pieces to fit the frame.” pg 242.

She jumps to conclusions and accuses or dismisses people nearly on a whim. I’d read a passage and then say to myself, “Come on, is that really the best you could do?” Now, that’s hardly fair as she’s exhausted, terrified and traumatized. But still. That’s what I thought.

Plus, the “unreliable narrator” thing has been done. In this story, Lo’s unreliable because she has anxiety and drinks a lot to forget that fact. That sounds like almost everyone I know.

Recommended for fans of mystery. It is enjoyable, but don’t make my mistake and expect too much complexity from The Woman in Cabin 10.

Thanks for reading!

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)  by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

shadowofthewindI’m incredibly embarrassed that I didn’t enjoy The Shadow of the Wind. So many of my Goodreads friends gave this five stars, I feel like I’m missing something. Perhaps my taste in books is all in my head. 🙂

I thought this was going to be a fantastical story about protecting books and defeating an evil that was trying to destroy them- sort of a magic librarian/coming-of-age/historical fiction adventure. It was not that.

It is more about the character descriptions and the scene descriptions and… well… descriptions. Not much happens. If I had to meet one more character and absorb one more backstory, I was going to freak out.

The Shadow of the Wind has been called “gothic” and “lyrical” and “beautiful.” I can think of a few different descriptions, but the most pertinent one would be: “not-for-Heidi.”

I just couldn’t get into this book. My apologies to its fans. If we all enjoyed the same things, what a boring world this would be.

Thanks for reading!

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3) by Jim Butcher

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3) by Jim Butcher

graveperilAnother satisfying entry in The Dresden Files. Harry Dresden is again saving the world from supernatural creatures so that we can all sleep soundly in our beds at night. He’s joined by a knight of the church, an intrepid reporter and his familiar, Bob.

There are vampires, fairies and ghosts, oh my! Plus some other magical creatures thrown in for good measure.

My one complaint is that my favorite character, Murphy, doesn’t figure as largely into this plot as she did in the last book. Here’s hoping that she has a larger role in the next.

Recommended for fans of urban fantasy, The Dresden Files is the tops. Also, if you can, listen to the audio books. James Marsters’ narration is near perfection.

Thanks for reading!